Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Rush For Stimulus To Avoid Economic Catastrophe

The debate on stimulus continues and the bill on the Senate floor continues to grow toward one trillion dollars. Meanwhile, unless the package dramatically changes only twelve cents of every dollar will eventually be for economic stimulus.

The remainder will be just a huge bill of pork. The one area that has not had much discussion is the stimulus given to the states. Here is some of what this taxpayer money will go to:

From Today's Wall Street Journal:

Las Vegas, which by some accounts already glitters, wants $2 million for neon signs. Boynton Beach, Fla., is looking for $4.5 million for an "eco park" featuring butterfly gardens and gopher tortoises and Chula Vista, Calif., would like $500,000 to create a place for dogs to run off the leash. These are among 18,750 projects listed in "Ready to Go," the U.S. Conference of Mayors' wish list for funding from the stimulus bill moving through Congress. The group asked cities and towns to suggest "shovel ready" projects for the report, which it gave to Congress and the Obama administration. Although the bulk of proposals are roads, sewers and similar projects, some wouldn't require a shovel at all. The mayors group sees a potential 1.6 million new jobs from the projects, though a few of them wouldn't create any. Some localities are using a kitchen-sink strategy. "Our approach has been to list everything, because we don't know what the final guidelines will be or what the final dollar amount will be," says Greg MacLean, public-works director in Lincoln, Neb. Among entries on Lincoln's list is a $3 million environmentally friendly clubhouse for a municipal golf course.

So, does the United States government just give money to the states to fund all these dubious "shovel ready" projects? It seems that money going to these projects should be separately approved and be made transparent all the way down to the local level.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama warned again today that the financial crisis will turn into "a catastrophe" if a stimulus bill isn't passed quickly. This is the same haste that was used to approve the TARP program. A program that still has not achieved anything, is constantly changing, and has billions of dollars being spent without any transparency.

Its the dubious crisis politics of today. Its the rush to spend a trillion in the hope to avoid economic catastrophe. So, what happens if this stimulus solution doesnt work and an out of control deficit sends the dollar into a free fall? Then we will see an economic catastrophe and realize that spending hundreds of billions of dollars on pork was not really a practical solution at all.

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